Did you miss me? I seem to have been away for ages, but I've got the best excuse - I got married and went on honeymoon, which rather takes a girl's mind off more mundane tasks like asset allocation or writing columns for websites.
I was in the Maldives for a fortnight, sheer bliss, Anthony Academic rubbing suncream into my back and not a Reuters screen in sight. So it was a bit of a shock to come back to the FTSE at 5,240 and yet more of my broker contacts absent from their desks on a permanent basis.
Even the buyside has seen some departures while I have been away - Merrill Lynch made the astonishing gesture of offering everyone working there voluntary redundancy on what seemed to me like jolly generous terms.
Even the dashing Nick Vassilou Salter, MLIM's TMT expert (who I confess I have always rather fancied) has taken the cheque and retired to his 'other business' - take a look at www.salter.co.uk.
I commend Nick to you as a stunning example of where hard work leveraged an enthusiasm for the markets from the back office to the front. I shall miss him - results meetings will never be the same again.
I had nearly three weeks off work, what with the wedding preparations and so on. This required some fudging of the holiday rules we get 25 days standard but can add further days via our flexible benefits scheme.
My mother presented me with a fait accompli about the actual day, with a professional choir and a highly traditional service, marquee on the lawn etc.
Still, Anthony and I didn't mind. We had a great time and the best of it was that we knew we wouldn't have to be around the next day to clear up. As well as a bevy of relatives from both sides we invited a smattering of friends from the City, and it was easy to tell those who worked in fixed income (broad smiles, jollity, large cigars) from those working in equities (thin smiles, moodiness, chain-smoking cigarettes).
I wonder how many banks will now be facing the difficult decision of how much of their fixed income profits to use to pay bonuses to key equity employees? My advice, for what it is worth, is: "Don't bother". None of them are worth it.
My most recent gripe was with an equity analyst at a leading bank who kept getting his assistant to return my calls. Finally I just invented a question so complicated I knew it would be beyond her and, sure enough, he finally called himself. When will these people understand this is a service industry and I am the client?!
You will be delighted to learn that an extra bonus came through from my employer, just in time to save the honeymoon from being switched from the Indian Ocean to the Isle of Wight. You may recall that I refrained from any emotional outburst regarding the derogatory sum of money proffered to me initially, and merely made an appointment in my boss's diary for a week later to formally discuss the situation.
Before the meeting I assembled my stats - number of reports written, company meetings undertaken, recommendations made, sector performance relative to the market etc. I then used these to make a short presentation as to why I felt it was at best risky, and at worst sexual discrimination, to give me a bonus that represented less than 25% of my salary.
My boss cearly took this on board, because a few days later I was taken aside and given a matching sum of money for which I was suitably grateful (but not too grateful after all, I deserved it). Now I have to start planning for next year and hope that any pregnancy doesn't show before then!
You can contact Betty at: firstname.lastname@example.org